Looking for books with wider margins for annotations and notes

With the school year starting and a new slew of books to be purchased and read, I’ve been looking for books, particularly popular “classics” or “great books” that are published either with larger margins or even interleaved copies (books in which every other page is blank and meant for writing extensive notes).

Within the bible publishing space (and especially for study bibles), these features seem a lot more common as people want to write more significant marginalia or even full pages of text against or opposite of what they’re reading within the book itself. Given the encouragement many teachers give for students to actively annotate their books for class discussions as well as people commonly doing this, why isn’t it more common for them to recommend or require texts with ample margins?

Almost all of the published mass market paperbacks I see of series like Penguin Classics or Signet classics have the smallest possible margins and no interlinear space for writing notes directly in books. Often hard covers will have slightly larger margins, but generally most publishers are putting 1/2 inch or 3/4″ margins on their classics series (Penguin Classics, Everyman Library, Signet (a paltry 1/4 inch usually), Library of America, Norton Classics, Wordsworth Classics, Dover, etc.)

For those wanting ample margins for active “reading with a pen in hand” are there any publishers that do a great job of wider margins on classics? Which publishers or editions do others like or recommend for this sort of reading?

Are there any book sales platforms that actually list the size of margins of their books? (I never seen one myself.)

What can consumers do to encourage publishers to change these practices?

I’ve seen only a few select titles from very few publishers that do things like this. Examples include:

  • Gladius Books’ Huckleberry Finn
  • Annotate Books’ Marcus Aurelius, which has 1.8″ lined margins
  • The Folio Society has slightly better margins on their texts, but they’re generally larger hardcover collectors’ editions that are dramatically more expensive than is practicable for students on a budget. ($80+ versus $5-10)

If I can’t find anything useful, I’m tempted to self-publish custom versions of wide margin or interleaved books otherwise. Something in the inch to inch and a half margin size for commonly used texts in literature classes should be much more commonplace.

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Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

6 thoughts on “Looking for books with wider margins for annotations and notes”

  1. I don’t have a specific edition to offer, but you asked “why don’t publishers publish more books with scholar’s margins?” and the answer is because it’s expensive. More white space means more paper and binding material, longer time for the print run, more customization on the press, heavier and therefore more costly to ship. Book publishing operates on a very thin margin so it’s not cost-effective, especially when most consumers don’t care about the extra margin space and/or aren’t willing to absorb the costs in the purchase price.

    What can consumers do to encourage publishers to change these practices? Be willing to spend the $80 for the scholar’s margins instead of expecting to pay the normal $5 to $10.


  2. I’m looking for baseball scorecards with wider margins. Of course, that’s an easy fix as I just print my own. But there’s something really cool about keeping score on the official scorecard bought at the ballpark. It would be fun buy ads to run in the official scorecard, and just leave the ad space blank.

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